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Fitness

These articles have something related to fitness in them.

This article is aimed at competitive players. Players who regularly encounter players they have never played against before.

How Many Squash Shots Are You?

The first time on court against new players creates a lot of emotions; nerves, excitement, curiosity, confidence, doubt, and hope, to name but a few. For some players those emotions, plus the challenge and hopefully the win is what makes squash fun for them. A few players thrive in that sort of environment and others fade. Assuming that team matches and graded tournaments pit players against each other who are very similar standards, those matches can really test your mindset and mental strength. I knew a guy who won 90% of his first matches against new opponents, but them lost 90% of the follow up matches. It was fascinating. Let’s call him Jack for the sake of this article. What skill set did he have that made him so successful the first time he played anybody? BTW, those 90% figures are just estimates. But he really did win an overwhelming number of first encounters and then lost most of the rest. He was the perfect team player for either the first or second have of the season, but not the whole season! I wish I had paid more attention to him in the years I knew him. I might have learnt a lot about squash in a short space of time. Anyway, here are some thoughts about what I think happened. No, not this Jack. Set The Tone – Part 1 The first thing he did was “set the tone”. In this context it means he decided what happened in the knock up and first game. For example, he always got on court first and was the first to hit the ball, and always three or four shots to himself. Next, when asked if he were ready to swap sides he would say “no, just a couple of hits more”. Then switch sides when he was ready. He spun the racket to decide serve – obviously he didn’t win the…

Not everybody wants to play competitive squash, for example in inter-club team matches or graded tournaments. Those types of people “get fit to play squash”, but what about the people who want to “play squash to get fit”?

Playing squash to get fit and improve your health is a fantastic idea and if you are considering doing that or have just started, I congratulate you. You have made a great choice of sport; the squash community is friendly, the sport is both fun and great for your body. Eventually, you will encounter people who tell you that you should do extra fitness training in addition to playing. Those people are right *IF* you are ambitious and want to play competitive squash. If you want to play better squash (mmm, that would make a great name for a YouTube channel and website. Oh Wait!), then you will need to do more than just playing. Luckily, I write a lot about that sort of topic, so if you are new here, check the archives for plenty of tactics, tips and training ideas. But not everybody is or should be ambitious, right? Right! And let me tell you now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to play squash with a group of friends once or twice a week as simply a way to get fit or even lose weight. Below are a few things to consider when playing squash to get fit. The Benefits of Playing Squash First, it’s great for your heart and lungs. We call this “cardio”, which is short for “Cardiovascular system”. Doing cardio means you are breathing heavily. Next, it strengthens you whole body, but mostly your core (back and stomach area) and legs. Don’t worry though, you won’t develop big legs, just strong legs. Next it’s great for your mind and mental health. Instead of simply going to the gym, you are playing sport and that means the time goes faster AND you have to keep you mind active. Hitting the ball allows you to release any stress you have and is also a lot of fun, especially when you hit it hard! The squash community is…

One of my objectives for this site and channel is to encourage potential players from all backgrounds and situations to try squash. In the past, squash was seen as an elitist sport, but thankfully, that’s changing.

Many years ago, I was chatting with somebody in the bar of the Wembley Squash Centre, where I was coach, and they said that they would love to try squash but were “too big”. “Nobody is too big unless they couldn’t fit through the door” I replied (partly joking, but looking back, quite true too), and the next week he was on the court with me. Admittedly, he really didn’t do very well, but that wasn’t due to his size. Being “big” and you know what other word is associated with big, but I’m not going to use it, has always been a stumbling block for many who want to exercise. And let’s be clear, being big does cause some problems with regard to exercise, but unless there is a medical reason then I personally don’t see a problem in trying different sports. Another time, I had an inter-club team match (my club versus another club) and the person who I was sharing the trip with warned me that “Mr. Smith” (yes, that really was his name) was a rather large fellow and I should not pre-judge him. On seeing him, I pre-judged him (silly 20 year-old me!) and thought it would be an easy night for me, but I was wrong, very wrong. I managed to beat him in 5 hard games, and he was one of the quietest players I had ever played. He seemed to glide around the court rather than the expected thump. The Lesson: Big players can move surprisingly well sometimes. If You Are Big And Reading This, Yes You Can Try Squash I am lucky. I recognise that until recently (I am getting old), my body never stopped me from doing any activity I wanted to. Or more importantly my and society’s attitude never limited my options. Not everybody has that luxury. There should be nothing stopping people of all shapes or sizes from…

Court sprints are simply running from the back wall to the front wall and back again. They are used by players and coaches as an easy fitness test and part of a training session. But how useful are they?

Let me start off by saying I have done and made people do thousands of court sprints over the years. They are like the “boast and drive” drill – everybody knows them and everybody has done them. If you are new to squash, please jump to the bottom of the article and come back after you have read that paragraph. For People Who Like Physical Challenges Let’s be honest, court sprints are hard. If you do the common “How may in 1 minute” them you are going pretty fast. There’s a huge psychological component of touching the wall just before other people and it seems to be perfect for squash – moving around the court fast. I’ve heard of leader boards in clubs with a list of names. There are even videos of people doing the challenge. For people who love fitness work, it’s a dream come true. It’s a variation of the “shuttle run”, which is used in all sorts of sports, with the Beep Test being a famous (infamous!) “official” test for aspiring athletes and masochists alike. In fact, I think I remember a version to be used on a squash court, but I might be wrong – let me know if you know anything about it. Why I Don’t Like Them Court sprints, or just shuttle runs, can be performed literally anywhere. Why waste the time you have paid for on court by doing fitness work? It seems crazy to me. If you have free access to courts; great, no problem, lucky you, but most of us don’t. Also, they do NOTHING for your squash. Yes, they can make you fitter, but when you are on court you should be working on your squash, not your fitness. Lastly, as a previous Health and Safety officer is shudder when I remember people tripping over and hitting their head on the wall in the final seconds of a minute…

A few days ago I posted an article about my 80-80 philosophy and I was asked how I know that many players hit the ball too hard.

The first answer is that they have a reduction in control. The harder you try to hit the ball, the less control you have over it. The same is true of very soft shots, but that’s another article. Notice that it’s “The harder you TRY to hit the ball”. Players can hit the ball harder than you, but with less effort. In those cases they can still control the ball. I’m not saying you lose all control. It’s a linear scale: the harder you try, the less control. The second reason, and the focus of this article is the combination of hitting speed and moving speed. I haven’t been on court in many many months, and when I did, it was just to record a video, so in the last 2 years I’ve been on court a handful of times. But I bet I could still hit the ball quite hard. Certainly not as hard as I did in my twenties, but almost as hard as most good club players. And here lies the problem. I’m slow. The good news is that I know I’m slow. The bad news is that you might not know you are slow! Now, you might not be objectively slow, but you will almost certainly be slower than you need to be if you hit the ball very hard. Let’s look at why it’s important. I suspect he is about to hit the ball quite hard, although he could equally play a trickle boast or even a drop! Getting Out Of The Way A lot, and I mean a lot of club players hit crosscourt way too often because they know they would be in the way of their opponent if they hit straight. This is evident from all my years of coaching, as well as the video analysis that I’ve done with club players in the last few years. it’s especially prevalent on the…

Back in July, I wrote an article entitled “Are you Fit Enough For Squash” and in it I obviously talked about fitness. Today I want to introduce two fitness concepts that can get you fitter without leaving the court!

Not everybody wants to do fitness work in addition to playing squash. The phrase “Don’t play squash to get fit, get fit to play squash” is a great soundbite but quite possibly counter-productive. Did we scare people off who thought that just playing squash wasn’t enough and they would have to do more training? I’m a great believer in people playing squash because they enjoy it, but also because it’s part of their exercise routine. You DO NOT have to get fit to play squash – just play squash. However, there are players who are more ambitious, more dedicated and more competitive – perhaps you are one of those people? You are reading this, right? So, here are two fitness concepts that anybody can use to get fitter, improve their squash and add something new to their game. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) When you think of HIIT, what image comes to mind? Maybe a group of people each at a “station” performing exercise for a set period of time, followed by a set rest period. Maybe it’s running on a track, for a set distance, then walking for a set distance. The essence of HIIT is hard work, followed by a rest. And when you think about it, that’s very similar to squash, except instead of a set time, it’s a rally. So why not take that concept one step further and actively include it in your practice matches? Depending you your current fitness level, aspirations and/or your opponent, play two rallies at the highest intensity possible, followed by 2 rallies when you play slower. Essentially, it’s very hard work, followed by easier work. Now clearly, a match is not as fixed as an exercise station. Your opponent my run you around for a few rallies and then vice versa, but by actively and consciously trying to control the speed or intensity of play, you not only take control…

You must master three things to hit the ball hard and with accuracy in squash. They are: Strength, Technique and Timing. Let’s look at why.

Vary Your Speed And Height

If you play enough squash, you will play against, or at least see, players who are small and light, yet they hit the ball with incredible ferocity. Conversely, you will see larger, seemingly strong players who never seem to be able to make that ball smack the wall. With regard to body: size doesn’t matter. Strength Did you know that an untrained muscles can become twice as strong without getting bigger? Big muscles aren’t necessarily strong muscles. I mean they are strong, but not necessarily as strong as smaller people. Being strong in squash, is not a case of having big muscles or looking like a bodybuilder. What you really need is power. Power is strength times speed. Being able to lift very heavy weight quite slowly is not as useful as being able to lift lighter weights faster. There’s also core strength that isn’t a fashionable 6-pack. You only need to do some yoga, pilates or certain Swiss ball exercises to realise that core strength can be found in very slim bodies. So how do you get this “Squash Strength”, well, I’m not a fitness expert, but I will give you a tip at the end. A good example of the right kind of strength is being able to not let the racket head twist on contact with the ball if the ball is slightly off-centre. It’s not something that can be trained in gyms. Technique Each sport has its own technique that works best with the equipment used. Tennis has a much heavier racket and ball, so therefore the technique used is very different from squash, and tennis doesn’t have the opponent and back wall to consider. Badminton also has different technique due to the lightness of the shuttlecock and racket. I’m not going to discuss the finer points of each shot’s technique in this article, but as far as drives are concerned a very good way to…